Could Abnormal Gamma Activities be a proxy for GABA-ergic Interneuron Dysfunction and/or a Promising Neuroimaging Marker of Insidious Mild Head Injuries?

Research Paper Title

Marked Increases in Resting-State MEG Gamma-Band Activity in Combat-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.


Combat-related mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a leading cause of sustained impairments in military service members and veterans.

Recent animal studies show that GABA-ergic parvalbumin-positive interneurons are susceptible to brain injury, with damage causing abnormal increases in spontaneous gamma-band (30-80 Hz) activity.


The researchers investigated spontaneous gamma activity in individuals with mTBI using high-resolution resting-state magnetoencephalography source imaging.

Participants included 25 symptomatic individuals with chronic combat-related blast mTBI and 35 healthy controls with similar combat experiences.


Compared with controls, gamma activity was markedly elevated in mTBI participants throughout frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital cortices, whereas gamma activity was reduced in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

Across groups, greater gamma activity correlated with poorer performances on tests of executive functioning and visuospatial processing.

Many neurocognitive associations, however, were partly driven by the higher incidence of mTBI participants with both higher gamma activity and poorer cognition, suggesting that expansive upregulation of gamma has negative repercussions for cognition particularly in mTBI.


This is the first human study to demonstrate abnormal resting-state gamma activity in mTBI.

These novel findings suggest the possibility that abnormal gamma activities may be a proxy for GABA-ergic interneuron dysfunction and a promising neuroimaging marker of insidious mild head injuries.


Huang, M.X., Huang, C.W., Harrington, D.L., Nichols, S., Robb-Swan, A., Angeles-Quinto, A., Le, L., Rimmele, C., Drake, A., Song, T., Huang, J.W., Clifford, R., Ji, Z., Cheng, C.K., Lerman, I., Yurgil, K.A., Lee, R.R. & Baker, D.G. (2019) Marked Increases in Resting-State MEG Gamma-Band Activity in Combat-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY, 1991). pii: bhz087. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhz087. [Epub ahead of print].


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